DUBLIN (CBSDC) — When Navy slot back Bo Snelson and his teammates came out for practice on Thursday in Dublin, the media assembled were waiting like they were NFL players or rock stars.
Questions were fast and furious from a female TV journalist who seemed intent on beating everyone to the punch over a four-minute period. Snelson was asked everything from his opinion of Ireland to dressing up in uniform for the legions of women who will want to see them.
The senior answered all of them with careful thought out answers and great enthusiasm.
“We are here for a business trip,” Snelson said. “We weren’t happy with our season a year ago and we are focused on turning it around this year.”
The Midshipmen have won three of their last five games against the Fighting Irish, but come to Dublin 16-point underdogs.
“Notre Dame has an great team,” Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We know what we must to do to give ourselves a chance, but we’re looking forward to the opportunity, the people here in Dublin couldn’t be nicer and we are looking forward to playing in a beautiful stadium.”
Avivia Stadium, which hosts the game, first opened in 2010.
The venue is home to the Landsdowne Football Club. In addition, soccer, rugby and Gaelic Football contests are held in the building.
The Mids and the Irish squared off in Dublin at Croke Park in 1996, with Notre Dame capturing a 54-27 on their ‘home soil’ that day.
Navy and Notre Dame have played every year since 1927, making the it the longest intersectional rivalry in college football. The schools just signed an extension to continue the tradition through 2026.
Brian Kelly’s squad comes in to the contest ranked No. 25 in the Coaches Poll. However, the ranking may be a little misleading given the suspensions of quarterback Tommy Rees, running back Cierre Wood and others.
Navy will also be without a pair of key players in wide receivers Matt Aiken and Brandon Turner. The two combined for 27 catches and five scores last season.
Aiken is out with a knee injury while coaches told Turner he would not make the trip after starting practice late due to a late passing of a conditioning test.
Noah Copeland will make his first start at fullback for Navy.
Trey Miller will make his second career start under center for Navy on Saturday. His first came last year’s 56-14 loss in South Bend, Ind.
“I’m looking forward to showing people what I can do,” Miller said. “As a team we are ready to go and focused on a good season.”
In seven games last season, Miller threw three touchdown passes and nearly led Navy to a come from behind win against East Carolina by throwing two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.
The Mids are solid at slot with three returning seniors atop the depth chart.
In addition to catching four touchdown passes, Gee Gee Greene scored three times and averaged 7.8 yards per carry on the ground last season. John Howell also scored five touchdowns.
Returning seniors Matt Warrick and Tra’ves Bush set the defense.
Warrick, a linebacker, totaled 103 tackles for Navy last year. Bush, who used like a rover by defensive coordinator Buddy Green, made 93 stops for the Mids.
“I like our teams mentality and focus,” Niumatalolo said. “They are a humble group who realizes our margin for error is slim in every game, but I really like where we’re at right now and I know they are ready to go out and hit somebody else.”
Pete Medhurst is a play-by-play announcer for the Naval Academy and serves as afternoon drive sports anchor on 106.7 The Fan and All-News 99.1 WNEW. Follow him on Twitter: @PeteMedhurst